Universities committee concerned by jobs link
New Zealand universities should not be downgraded to the status of employment agencies, the head of a group representing them says.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday he wanted to see funding linked to employment outcomes, not just internal benchmarks.
"This will send a strong signal to students about which qualifications and which institutions offer the best career prospects -- and that's what tertiary education has got to be about," he said.
New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee chairman Derek McCormack, vice-chancellor at Auckland University of Technology, told NZPA he was surprised by the suggestion as New Zealand universities had a very good record of graduates getting employment.
"People in New Zealand with degrees have a really strong margin in terms of their income and are much less likely to be unemployed, and when they are unemployed they are unemployed for a much shorter period than anybody with any other sort of qualification.
"So we are already doing well and I am still wondering what's the problem? To introduce something like this seems to be downgrading New Zealand's very good university system to one which becomes more and more like an employment agency."
Students knew what various professions paid and what their job prospects were. Labour market planning had a poor success record, Mr McCormack said.
"I just feel that it's a wrong step. Obviously everybody wants graduates to have good employment prospects and New Zealand graduates do... but we want universities to be more than that. We want knowledge to not be restrained to the utilitarian boundaries of just work and just making the financial side of the economy better."
Knowledge enriched societies, he said. "We don't want to just make employees, we want to make citizens. We want part of the enjoyment and the meaningfulness and the richness of the ever expanding knowledge to be promoted as widely as possible for the good of a better society."
He questioned how such a policy would work and when it would be measured, giving Mr Joyce's own experience as an example -- he originally studied zoology before making a career in broadcasting.
"Now was his education worth anything? I would say it probably was but it wasn't directly relevant and how would you assess the connection and how would you have directed to take that subject or something else?"
Labour's tertiary education spokesman, Grant Robertson, said yesterday he was opposed to any rigid criteria that would lead universities to focus more on vocational training than education.
Mr Joyce said yesterday there needed to be a focus on employers' demand, but he would not be too prescriptive.